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On the eve of what could be the Los Angeles Galaxy's first MLS Cup title since 2005, the man who led LA to its last championship looks ready to return to MLS.
Steve Sampson is on the verge of being hired by Chivas USA as head coach, sources have told SBI. Sampson would replace Preki, who took over as Toronto FC head coach.
While Sampson is the favorite to be hired, sources have told SBI that Chivas USA is still conducting interviews with several coaches with MLS experience. A final decision is expected in the next week or two.
Sampson last coached in MLS in 2006, when he was fired as Galaxy head coach just a half season after guiding the team to an MLS Cup title. Sampson has strong ties to Chivas USA management, which includes the team's vice-president of soccer operations, Stephen Hamilton. It was Hamilton's older brother, the late Doug Hamilton, who hired Sampson as Galaxy head coach. Sampson was fired by LA just three months after the death of Doug Hamilton, who was president and general manager of the Galaxy at the time of his passing.
Sampson coached the U.S. national team during its awful 1998 World Cup appearance, but also remains the only U.S. head coach to earn a result in Mexico (a draw in 1997). His outgoing personality and ability to speak fluent Spanish would make him a very different kind of coach than Chivas USA had during the past three years in Preki.
Sampson's potential hiring is just one of the tidbits to surface during MLS Cup weekend in Seattle. Here are some more notes involving the Columbus Crew, MLS Draft targets and the latest on the MLS coaching carousel:
Crew shakeup looming
The Columbus Crew stands poised two lose two of its most important players, but those imminent losses aren't being driven by the salary cap.
2008 MLS MVP Guillermo Barros Schelotto and U.S. national team midfielder Robbie Rogers are highly unlikely to return to Columbus, and sources tell SBI that Crew head coach Robert Warzycha had a major falling out with both players, sparking the process that will likely lead to both their departures.
Warzycha endured serious criticism for his decisions not to play Schelotto in the Crew's first-round playoff opener against Real Salt Lake, and his decision to bench Robbie Rogers in game two of the RSL series. Columbus lost both matches.
Reports have blamed Schelotto's impending move out of Columbus on his salary demands, and the Crew's reluctance to keep him as a Designated Player, but that is looking more and more like the story Columbus is shaping to soften the back-lash the Crew is likely to face for letting Schelotto go. Don't be surprised to see Schelotto traded and play for less than Designated Player money with his new club.
As for Rogers, he is a free agent who could make a move to Europe, but sources tell SBI that Rogers is open to staying in MLS, just not with the Crew. A reunion with Philadelphia head coach Peter Nowak, who coached Rogers on the Olympic and national team, is a possibility.
Coaching Carousel Update
While Sampson looks set to take over at Chivas USA, two remaining coaching opening and a potential opening remain mysteries.
New York and D.C. United are still working toward hiring coaches and based on the information making the rounds, it is looking less like Richie Williams will be hired by the Red Bulls. He could be retained as an assistant coach, but with D.C. United showing serious interest in Williams as a head coach, we could see a Richie Williams-Ben Olsen coaching staff leading D.C. into the new decade.
Who will the Red Bulls turn to then? Erik Soler has already been chosen as the team's general manager (though it hasn't been formally announced yet) and it is anybody's guess what Soler will want in a head coach. Former Wizards head coach Curt Onalfo was in the mix for Soler's job and is available. Former Bayern Munich, Chivas USA and LA assistant coach Martin Vasquez could be in the mix as well, though there are concerns about Vasquez's current knowledge of MLS. That deficiency could have cost him the Chivas USA job, but New York may not be as picky (the Re Bulls have already shown that knowledge of MLS isn't a pre-requisite for employment). At this point I would put money on the Red Bulls hiring someone with international name recognition rather than one of the handful of available coaches who actually has experience in MLS.
One coach who is looking more and more like he will be available is current Fire hea coach Denis Hamlett. Fire owner Andrew Hauptman is ready to go in another direction, and his strained (more like non-existent) relationship with Hamlett has set the stage for a departure after two seasons in charge. Don't be surprised to see former D.C. United head coach Tom Soehn resurface in Chicago. He played for the Fire on the 1998 MLS Cup-winning team, and was teammates with current Chicago technical director Frank Klopas. Soehn has also been linked to a move to join Bob Bradley's staff on the U.S. national team.
MLS pushing to sign U.S. Under-17 stars
Major League Soccer has made significant offers to U.S. Under-17 national team stars Jack McInerney and Luis Giland both are close to signing and could be a part of the 2010 MLS Draft if they do sign.
McInerney and Gil are two of the most highly-coveted youth players in the U.S. youth system, and both have been the subject of interest from top European clubs.
If McInerney and Gil do sign, they would join U.S. Under-20 midfielder Dilly Duka as young prospects available in a 2010 MLS Draft expected to be a strong one (though probably not as strong as the 2009 draft.
That's all for now. What do you think of these developments? Surprised to see Sampson landing with Chivas USA? Shocked to think that the Crew will lose Schelotto and Rogers? Praying the Red Bulls get a clue and hire a head coach with MLS experience?
Share your thoughts below.